PHILLIPS (WAOW) – The police chief in Phillips who has been targeted for dismissal by the mayor in a lengthy complaint denies any wrongdoing, his attorney said Monday.
Police Chief David Sonntag has agreed to be placed on administrative leave while the city's Police Review Committee investigates Mayor Charles Peterson's accusations, according to city documents. Sonntag has been chief since 2004.
In a 16-page complaint filed in late February, Mayor Charles Peterson accused Sonntag of being dishonest in several ways, including falsifying an arrest document in a May 2012 drug investigation and in submitting a claim for expenses for a trip to Madison that he never took.
The mayor said the police chief's actions have “eroded” his credibility and enhanced a “reputation for lacking integrity,” the complaint said.
The mayor's other criticisms include how Sonntag has administered a juvenile diversion program and how he manages the police department.
“As a result of his inadequate leadership, morale among the officers ...has become impaired to the point of interfering with the good and proper operation of the department,” the mayor's complaint said.
The police chief's attorney, Thomas Halloran of Oconomowoc, said Monday that the mayor filed a "bare bones complaint" and Sonntag denies any wrongdoing.
“I know this chief had gotten along well with the former mayor and doesn't get along as well with this mayor,” the attorney said. “If there is an undertone (to the dispute), and that is not uncommon, I don't know what that is yet.”
Halloran said Sonntag agreed to the paid administrative leave “just to diffuse the situation.”
The Police Review Committee's “evidentiary hearing” into the dispute probably won't occur until May, at the earliest, according to the attorney hired to preside over it.
Peterson said Monday that his name is on the complaint document but “I am representing the people of Phillips. The complaints were brought to my attention and I brought them to someone else.”
Peterson was elected mayor in 2012 and seeks re-election to a second two-year term in April.
The Phillips Police Department includes the chief, the assistant chief and three full-time officers, the mayor said.
Assistant Chief Mike Hauschild was named acting police chief, Peterson said.